SUPER MARIO GALAXY Platform Adventure (Wii) Rating: NNNNN
Rife with innovative worlds (actual planetoids, this time!) that will get your head tilting to keep up with the perspective, Galaxy gives gamers gorgeous graphics, superb sound and fantastical level design.
Wrapping all this up are some really refined controls that allow just about anyone to get immediately immersed. A token two-player set-up where the second Wiimote can collect star bits and stun enemies is great for younger kids who want to 'help' while you play the main game.
The planet puzzles range from simplistic to complex, challenging gamers at all levels, depending on how many of the 100-plus stars you wish to collect. Taking base concepts of the groundbreaking Mario 64 it into the stratosphere, Super Mario Galaxy earns itself a large and brilliant star in the best-of constellation.
RAYMAN RAVING RABBIDS 2 Rating: NNNN
Those crazy and irreverent Rabbids are back, spreading their comedic but violent humour. Aside from an amusing intro about the Rabbids' intention to take over the Earth, the game thankfully doesn't attempt to string the mini-games together with a narrative.
The multi-player aspect has now taken centre stage. Unlock Rabbid customizations (I spied a nod to Ubi's other über-game this season, Assasin's Creed, in an Altair costume), shooting levels and more places for Rabbids to visit and mimic locals.
Automatic in-game connectivity to post your scores and get your global ranking is a huge improvement from the long alpha-numeric codes you had to punch in manually to the website.
It has some control issues and overly repeated game mechanics, but if you enjoyed the first Wii Rabbids title, grab it and bring some friends to take advantage of this crazy game.
ASSASSIN'S CREED Rating: NNNN
The spiritual successor to Montreal-based studio Ubisoft's Prince Of Persia, Assassin's Creed succeeds in delivering a world of grand ambition, complexity and scale.
At heart, Assassin's Creed is an immense open platformer of leaping, climbing, skulking and sprinting through the great cities of the Holy Land during the Third Crusade. All this is wrapped in a plot that mixes elements of the medieval, The Matrix and a Grail Quest conspiracy that's enough to make the best genre-writer's head spin.
The visuals are white-hot, too, skipping the dark alleys of conventional stealth games for action that is right out in the open. Here, you track your quarry through streets, marketplaces and temples teeming with people, all in burned-out desert light.
Open-ended-style play allows pursuit of targets as you see fit: either rushing through to the quick or staying on to further plan your strike. While there's a bit of a learning curve with the controls, my main beef with the game is the inability to skip through set tutorials and story-scenes. That aside, Assassin's Creed is killer .
VIVA PIñATA: PARTY ANIMALS Mini Game Collection (360) Rating: NN
The original Viva Piöata remains one of the most underrated games ever. Its cutesy interface and dialogue masked a complex game targeted at kids but more fun for adults.
Party Animals brings back the same witty banter, unique Piöata characters and beautiful graphics, this time in a party game package. It's one part Mario Kart, two parts Fusion Frenzy, simplified a bit. Up to four players, local or online, take part in tournaments that consist of Mario-Kart-style racing and over 40 mini games.
The big problem here is that, where the original game had layer upon layer of dynamic relationships and game elements to explore, Party Animals involves mashing the A button. That's about it. Oh, sometimes you use B, too, and racing uses the right trigger, but nothing other than full speed is needed, so why even bother?
The games are too simple and repetitive. Since very few have you interacting with your co-players, they lack the competitive spirit that Fusion Frenzy engendered.
If you're a geek parent who wants to spend some quality time on the Xbox with your four-to-six-year-old, you might lose at this, and kids will probably laugh and smile at the antics of the piöatas.
LINK'S CROSSBOW TRAINING Shooter (Wii) Rating: NNN
While Nintendo could have inserted any property into this short game, the company puts the popular and titular Link (and his crossbow) through a series of shooting scenarios. Though levels become repetitive, there's still enough here to recommend the game, which is currently included with the $20 Zapper for the Wiimote/Nunchuck duo on the Wii.
Points are allocated for shooting wooden targets and monsters, and you're penalized if you shoot live animals. So remember: bull's eyes over a Goron's crotch and skeletal zombies are okay, cuckoos are a no-no.
It's a relatively inexpensive time-waster, and the adapter can then be used for other games.